One of my favourite things about blogging is the opportunity to go to events you normally wouldn’t, in particular food-related ones! Last month I went to “Experience Premium Japanese Food and Drink” at the Intercontinental London Park Lane, which was hosted by the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) and the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF), to learn about Japan’s signature wagyu beef and sample a buffet of delicious Japanese food.
The aim of this event was to educate people, mainly those in the food trade industry, on authentic Japanese agricultural products as business opportunities, but there was also an opportunity for bloggers to learn (and eat) something new. There were several seminars on different Japanese agricultural exports; rice, Wagyu beef, tea, flowers and bonsai, and seafood. I would have happily have one to all of these but could only go for one – so settled for Wagyu beef because I’m an absolute carnivore.
The “wa” in Wagyu literally refers to harmony and peace, the meaning of Japan itself, and Wagyu has captured global attention not only as a high quality food but also as a work of art. Wagyu has grown together with the food culture of thinly slicing and simmering meat (sashi) and vegetables in a pot, such as in sukiyaki and shabu shabu. Meat didn’t really become part of the Japanese diet until after the Meiji period (1868), although cattle had been an indespensible part of farming culture for centuries.
So, why is Wagyu beef considered to be the best of Japanese beef? The secret lies in the texture, flavour and aroma. Wagyu has a very high melting point (80 degrees Celcius), and once it has reached this temperature the famous peachy aroma is released. This aroma is stored in the meat and released again when chewed, meaning a beef party in your mouth. Wagyu fat has a high content of oleic acid, marked by the marbling patterns on the meat, which is actually very good for you as well as delicious.
The cattle Wagyu beef comes from are carefully reared and given not only a name but also a breeding certificate to ensure quality and heritage. Calves stay at a farm for 7 to 10 months before being sent to auction market, and reach 700kg before becoming beef. Cattle are fed by rice straws, which develops marbling and white colour of the fat. As with most foods in Japan, quality is key, and the “Universal Wagyu Mark” was established in 2007 as a mark of authenticity. Wagyu was approved to be exported to the UK only last year.
You can read more about Wagyu beef here and even order some yourself from Freedown Food, who were present at the seminar. And now, for the bit you’ve been waiting for, lots of wagyu beef pictures. We got to eat a lot…
After the seminars came the tasting opportunities and networking (I know, right?) The opening toast was given by Japan’s Minister for Agriculture, Foresty and Fisheries, The Hon. Yoshimasa Hayashi, and Deputy Prime Minister of Japan, Tarō Asō, two people I never thought I’d be in the same presence of… but that’s the wonder of blogging! I met a lot of other bloggers at the event last night and, of course, sampled as much food as I could. The menu was prepared by some of London’s top Japanese chefs – Hideki Maeda from Nobu and Junya Yamasaki from KOYA, two more Japanese restaurants I’d love to visit and blog about. You can view all my photos from the evening here, but here are some my favourites below.
Next on the blog… the Japan holiday series continues as we head off to Kyoto!